Scientists Alter Consciousness Without Drugs Using ‘Hallucination Machine’

Meet the VR of psychedelic drugs.

By Sarah Sloat

on 

Imagine you’re looking around at a bustling city square, complete with shopkeepers and heavy foot traffic. But swirling jewel tones cover the ground, a muted haze flows through the air, and flowing, bulbous images of dogs and birds are attached to the people passing by. You know you’re neither dreaming nor drunk. It’s entirely possible, thanks to new research, that you’re hooked up to the “Hallucination Machine.”

The Hallucination Machine was built by a team researchers from the Sussex University’s Sackler Center for Conscious Science, including the center’s co-founder, neuroscientist Anil Seth, Ph.D. In a paper published Wednesday in Scientific Reports, Seth and his colleagues explain they created the Hallucination Machine as a means to study the mechanisms underlying altered states of consciousness without needing to use psychedelic drugs. This tool, they claim, is like a drug in its ability to make people feel like they are hallucinating.

Creating this altered state in human subjects, they explain, is tricky. Typically, people reach altered states because of psychopathological conditions or psychoactive substances, like LSD and psilocybin. Scientists have induced altered states in study participants with these drugs before to study the neural underpinnings at play, but the process is far from perfect. The Sussex University team explains that, because psychedelics have many physiological effects, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s changing in terms of consciousness.

The Hallucination Machine combines VR and deep machine learning.

With the Hallucination Machine, the researchers write, they are able to “simulate visual hallucinatory experiences in a biologically plausible and ecologically valid way.” The tool, which, unlike a drug, does not directly alter the person’s neurophysiology, combines virtual reality and machine learning. When a person wears it, they are immersed in “hallucinations” by watching 360-degree panoramic videos of video scenes with a VR head-mounted display. These videos are modified with an algorithm called Deep Dream, a computer program created by Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsev that modifies natural images to reflect images categorized by a neural network.

Deep Dream happens to insert a lot of images of dogs into the video, but researchers aren’t quite sure why. “One thing people always ask us is why there are so many dogs,” co-author David Schwartzman, Ph.D., told The Times on Monday.

“The short answer is we don’t know.”

In their study, the researchers used two experiments to demonstrate that the Hallucination Machine creates “visual phenomenology” — hallucinations — similar to those induced classical psychedelics. In the first, 12 participants used the machine, experienced the trippy VR, and then were asked how the experience altered from watching normal videos and being on a psychedelic drug. The participants overwhelmingly reported the experience was much different than watching a control video but qualitatively similar to being on drugs, especially psilocybin.

In the second experiment, 22 participants used the Hallucination Machine and then watched a control video. As they watched each video, they completed a task to test their perception of the passing of time. Neither using the Hallucination Machine nor watching the video caused temporal distortion. This was an important discovery, the researchers point out, because in previous studies on altered states of consciousness in which people did take drugs, they reported being confused about the passing of time. The new observations suggest to the researchers that it’s not being in an altered state that causes temporal distortion, it’s the drugs.

Examining the brain in an altered state of consciousness is important to scientists who are still are seeking to understand the biological basis of consciousness as a whole. A major hurdle to this area of study has been the use of and accessibility to psychedelic drugs. The Hallucination Machine may change this, and in turn, allow us to learn more about the unknown ways our minds can perceive ourselves and the world. (Click to Source)

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Psilocybin and Magic Mushrooms: Next Health & Legalization Trend After Cannabis?

Psilocybin, the substance found in 200+ species of magic mushrooms, may be the next health and legalization trend after cannabis. Magic mushrooms have been used in many cultures all over the world for therapeutic and spiritual purposes. Many scientific studies and clinical trials have found positive evidence of their benefits to the human body, especially in the area of mental health. With the state of Oregon and the city of Denver (Colorado) about to vote on legalizing magic mushrooms later this year, will psilocybin become the next trend after cannabis?

Current Legal Status of Psilocybin in the USA

Like cannabis (marijuana), MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly), peyote and heroin, psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug. The definition of this category is substances with no medical use and the high potential for abuse. Possession of psilocybin mushrooms is a felony. Given the incredible benefits which magic mushrooms containing psilocybin offer mankind, this kind of classification is clearly ignorant, heavy-handed and contradictory. How can such benign substances as magic mushrooms be on the same level as the highly addictive, artificially manufactured and deadly heroin?

What the Science Says About Psilocybin

It turns out magic mushrooms are already being closely studied all over the world by many different scientists. So far, the science shows psilocybin bestows many health benefits. In a nutshell, scientific studies including pre-clinical and clinical trials show that psilocybin helps beat depression, anxiety, addiction and even cancer. On a higher level, it helps increase joy, peace and altruism. However, looking closely at the results provides even more insight.

Psilocybin for Autism, Asperger’s, ASD, Depression, Anxiety and PTSD

Autism rates are skyrocketing across the US, with many suspecting vaccines (thimerosal/mercury) and GMOs (glyphosate) as possible causes. Whatever the cause, it’s a serious neurological disorder. Asperger’s used to be considered its own disorder but was recently reorganized to come under the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and is now considered a mild form of autism. Asperger’s is characterized by a rigidity of thought and routine, and by a lack of empathy and social/emotional awareness. Interestingly enough, this is exactly what psilocybin can heal according to a recent January 2019 study, which found that psilocybin increased flexibility, creativity and empathy. Here’s what the author of the study Natasha Mason said:

“Examples of processes that have been found to be decreased in these pathologies include creative, flexible thinking and empathy. Specifically, individuals are characterized by repetitive and rigid patterns of negative and compulsive thoughts, as well as reduced empathic abilities. Thus we wanted to assess whether psilocybin enhanced these processes, and if so, how long effects lasted …We found that psilocybin, when taken in a naturalistic setting, increased aspects of creativity and empathy the morning after, and 7 days after use. Furthermore, psilocybin also enhanced subjective well-being. Interestingly, changes in well-being correlated with changes in empathy after psilocybin use.”

This also has implications for other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, as the study notes in its Introduction:

“Both creative, flexible thinking and empathy deficits have been found in stress-related psychopathologies like depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Breaking Down the Ego and “Default Mode Network”

If you want to learn more about psilocybin and what science is beginning to show about its benefits and effects, check out the work of Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence. He discusses how psychedelics, contrary to a common misconception, actually make you more sane than crazy. This is because substances like psilocybin decrease the activity of a brain network called the default mode network, which is in charge of perception of self. Psilocybin halts the functioning of this network, thus allowing a space for new neural connections – a re-wiring of the brain.

Psilocybin: Naturally in Sync with Our Biology

Another person to check out is Dr. Roland Griffiths, Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at Johns Hopkins University. He has some online videos such as this one where he shows that psilocybin helps people release fear, old patterns and negative beliefs. On a higher level, it helps increase joy, peace and altruism. Studies have also found that it can engender mystical-type experiences in people which are identical to those that occur naturally, suggesting psilocybin is naturally in sync with our biology.

Further Evidence of Psilocybin’s Potential as a Healing Agent

Lastly, take a look at the studies reported here and here on Waking Times. The latter showed that psilocybin strongly helped patients with depression:

“Amazingly, after the participants were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first – their brains showed pronounced, decreased blood flow to the areas of the brain implicated in depression. Researchers also found increased stability on parts of the brain related to depression – and these effects lasted up to five weeks.

The team described the immediate results of patients’ symptoms disappearing after the initial trip as an “afterglow” and a “disintegration” – with the compound also reintegrating brain networks afterward. The afterglow included marked improvements in mood and stress relief. Patients used a lot of computer metaphors to describe how their brains felt afterward – defragged, rebooted, and reset.”

Final Thoughts: Psilocybin is a Gift of Nature which will Hopefully Soon be Widely Legalized

Psilocybin has a long history of use across the world, especially among South American tribes (like the Aztecs, whose word for it was teonanacatl, which translates to “divine mushroom”). There are several prehistoric rock art drawings depicting psilocybin mushrooms, such as the one in Spain, near Villar del Humo, approximately 6,000 years old, another in Tassili n’Ajjer (a national park in the Sahara Desert, Algeria) which is around 7,000-9,000 years old, and the one pictured above from Guatemala. My prediction and hope is that it will become the next health and legalization trend after cannabis, which, for the USA, also started in Denver, Colorado. We shall see.

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Makia Freeman is the editor of alternative media / independent news site The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at ToolsForFreedom.com, writing on many aspects of truth and freedom, from exposing aspects of the worldwide conspiracy to suggesting solutions for how humanity can create a new system of peace and abundance. Makia is on Steemit and FB.  (Click to Source)

Sources:

*https://psi-2020.org/

*https://ballotpedia.org/Denver,Colorado,_Psilocybin_Mushroom_Initiative(May_2019)

*https://www.psypost.org/2019/03/a-single-dose-of-psilocybin-enhances-creative-thinking-and-empathy-up-to-seven-days-after-use-study-finds-53283

*https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02791072.2019.1580804

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bu3q3GMHfE

*https://www.wakingtimes.com/2012/11/01/psilocybin-and-the-ego-centric-brain/

*https://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/10/16/psilocybin-appears-reset-brain-activity-depressed-patients-stunning-results/

 

Recovery Room 7 is a community of people with similar backgrounds, where people from all walks of drug & alcohol recovery can meet together, share, socialize, interact, join in fun activities, share meals, pray and learn. It’s a place of joy and awakening to their true purpose in life. Jesus Christ is always present and ready to receive everyone in Recovery Room 7. We will be located in beautiful Northwest Montana. If you would like to donate to get Recovery Room 7 up and running, please go to our PayPal Donation Linkhere.

Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore enlists priests, rabbis and a Buddhist to test the effects of psychedelic drugs on religious experience

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A Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a Buddhist walk into a bar and order some magic mushrooms. It may sound like the first line of a bad joke, but this scenario is playing out in one of the first scientific investigations into the effects of psychedelic drugs on religious experience – albeit in a laboratory rather than a bar.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have enlisted two dozen religious leaders from a wide range of denominations, to participate in a study in which they will be given two powerful doses of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.

Dr William Richards, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland who is involved in the work, said: “With psilocybin these profound mystical experiences are quite common. It seemed like a no-brainer that they might be of interest, if not valuable, to clergy.”

The experiment, which is currently under way, aims to assess whether a transcendental experience makes the leaders more effective and confident in their work and how it alters their religious thinking.

Despite most organised religions frowning on the use of illicit substances, Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian priests, a Zen Buddhist and several rabbis were recruited. The team has yet to persuade a Muslim imam or Hindu priest to take part, but “just about all the other bases are covered,” according to Richards.

After preliminary screening, including medical and psychological tests, the participants have been given two powerful doses of psilocybin in two sessions, one month apart.

The sessions will be conducted in a living room-like setting at New York University and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore with two “guides” present. The participants will be given the drug and then spend time lying on a couch, wearing eyeshades and listening to religious music on headphones to augment their inward spiritual journey.

“Their instruction is to go within and collect experiences,” Richards said, after presenting his work at the Breaking Convention conference in London this month. “So far everyone incredibly values their experience. No one has been confused or upset or regrets doing it.”

A full analysis of the outcomes will take place after a one-year follow-up with the participants, whose identities are being kept anonymous. “It is too early to talk about results, but generally people seem to be getting a deeper appreciation of their own religious heritage,” he said. “The dead dogma comes alive for them in a meaningful way. They discover they really believe this stuff they’re talking about.” (Click to Site)

First magic mushroom depression trial hits stumbling block

psilocybin

The world’s first clinical trial designed to explore using a hallucinogen from magic mushrooms to treat people with depression has stalled because of British and European rules on the use of illegal drugs in research.

David Nutt, president of the British Neuroscience Association and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said he had been granted an ethical green light and funding for the trial, but regulations were blocking it.

“We live in a world of insanity in terms of regulating drugs,” he told a neuroscience conference in London on Sunday.

He has previously conducted small experiments on healthy volunteers and found that psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, has the potential to alleviate severe forms of depression in people who don’t respond to other treatments.

Following these promising early results he was awarded a 550,000 pounds ($844,000) grant from the UK’s Medical Research Council to conduct a full clinical trial in patients.

But psilocybin is illegal in Britain, and under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances it is classified as a Schedule 1 drug – one that has a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use.

This, Nutt explained, means scientists need a special license to use magic mushrooms for trials in Britain, and the manufacture of a synthetic form of psilocybin for use in patients is tightly controlled by European Union regulations.

Together, this has meant he has so far been unable to find a company able to make and supply the drug for his trial, he said.

“Finding companies who could manufacture the drug and who are prepared to go through the regulatory hoops to get the license, which can take up to a year and triple the price, is proving very difficult,” he said.

Nutt said regulatory authorities have a “primitive, old-fashioned attitude that Schedule 1 drugs could never have therapeutic potential”, despite the fact that his research and the work done by other teams suggests such drugs may help treat some patients with psychiatric disorders.

Psilocybin – or “magic” – mushrooms grow naturally around the world and have been widely used since ancient times for religious rites and also for recreation.

Researchers in the United States have seen positive results in trials using MDMA, a pure form of the party drug ecstasy, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

“What we are trying to do is to tap into the reservoir of under-researched illegal drugs to see if we can find new and beneficial uses for them in people whose lives are often severely affected by illnesses such as depression,” Nutt said.

The proposed trial would involve 60 patients with depression who have failed two previous treatments.

During two or three controlled sessions with a therapist, half would be given a synthetic form of psilocybin, and the other 30 a placebo. They would have guided talking therapy to explore negative thinking and issues troubling them, and doctors would follow them up for at least a year.

Nutt secured ethical approval for the trial in March.

In previous research, Nutt found that when healthy volunteers were injected with psilocybin, the drug switched off a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex, which is known to be overactive in people with depression.

“Even in normal people, the more that part of the brain was switched off under the influence of the drug, the better they felt two weeks later. So there was a relationship between that transient switching off of the brain circuit and their subsequent mood,”, he said. “This is the basis on which we want to run the trial.”

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